Tuesday, February 17, 2015
977. The Voice - Thomas Hardy
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who all all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!
Or is it only the breeze in its listlessness
Traveling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessiness,
Heard no more again far or near?
Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.
From Seamus Heaney
“I can’t honestly say that I break down when I read “The Voice,” but
when I get to the last four lines the dear ducts do congest a bit. The
poem is one of several Thomas Hardy wrote immediately after the
death of his first wife in late November 1912, hence his poignancy
of dating it “December 1912.” Hardy once described this group
of memorial poems as “an expiation,” acknowledging his grief and
remorse at the way he had neglected and hurt the one “who was all to
me…..at first, when our day was fair.” What renders the music of the
poem so moving is the drag in the voice, as if there were sinkers on
many of the lines. But in the final stanza, in that landscape of falling
leaves, wind and thorn, and the woman calling, there is a banshee note
that haunts “long after it is heard no more.”